kheru2006 (kheru2006) wrote,

Gain and sustain students’ attention

LACK of students’ attention during lectures is a common concern among teachers.

Their concentration fluctuates throughout a one-hour lecture. After 20 minutes, there is marked decline in interest followed by a peak just before class ends.

The following are some tips that will help teachers gain and sustain aler tness during lectures:

Create a positive environment for learning

A good lecturer deeply cares about his students; has a passion and knowledge about discipline and is approachable. To ease students’ anxiety: - Communicate your expectations of students’ behaviour, for example, they should ask questions and discuss the issues.

- Respond to problems in a personalised way. Make frequent eye contact with students.

- Move around the room and offer words of praise such as “good” or “interesting” to those who are participating.

- Be conscious of signs of racial or sexual harassment or personal attacks. Make it clear that such behaviour is not acceptable.

- Make the physical environment conducive to teaching and learning.

Ensure that the lecture hall is well lit, and the sound system is operating well.

- Never ridicule a student’s question or remarks. You can disagree with a student without attacking her personally.

- Always credit the thoughtfulness of students’ contributions and dignify their responses by highlighting their valid points.

- Allow students to interrupt during the lecture to ask questions as your answer may be crucial to understanding a concept or the rest of the lecture.

Prepare and plan your session Current learning theories conclude that students draw on existing knowledge and experiences to construct new knowledge and understanding. Plan your lecture according to the following three sections: - Activate students’ pr ior knowledge by asking questions, showing pictures or sharing experiences.

- Build on students’ existing knowledge by knowing the sequence of your lecture in the timetable. Ask questions to gauge their previous knowledge to determine the foundation on which to build on.

- Consolidate students’ new knowledge by summarising at appropriate intervals during the lecture as well as at the end. This helps students to compare their understanding and comprehension with that of the lecturer and reinforce their knowledge.

Communicate learning outcomes

Learning outcomes help students to focus their attention on the right direction and act as the benchmark for them to judge whether or not they have learned successfully.

Start the session by saying: “This is what I want you to know and we are going to focus on that.”

Highlight the relevance of the lecture 

Vivien Hodgson (1984) described three qualitatively different experiences of relevance: extrinsic, intrinsic and vicarious. Vicar ious experience relates to the teacher’s enthusiasm and interest in the subject, and the ability to bring the content to life, encouraging something similar to intrinsic experience. The way the lecturer acts and handles situations in class influences students’ perception of relevance.

Address all learning styles and intelligences 

Three modalities of learning have been identified. Visual learners favour written, graphic and electronic visual media, auditory learners prefer the spoken word and kinaesthetic learning involves students in physical activity. Learners will usually display a mix of the three learning styles although one may predominate.

The concept of multiple intelligences (Howard Gardener, 1983) promotes many methods of teaching.

A view can be explained in many diverse ways to students who have different intelligences such as deductive approach for log ical-mathematical intelligence and narrative for linguistic intelligence.

Explain concepts 

Explaining is one of the most important skills in teaching. Effective explanations use precise pointing at diagrams and naming of parts, simple definitions, emphasis on key points, apt examples, metaphors, paraphrasing key points and clear transitions from one subtopic to the next.

Share your experiences 

Your experience is the information only you can provide. It will sustain students’ attention and help them to comprehend the concept under discussion. Real examples are more likely to be recalled than theory or minute descriptions.

Gain and sustain students’ attention 

Sharing news items or incidents captures the imagination of the students and deepens their under standing.

Speak clearly, slowly and ensure that students are following you to sustain attention. Check by asking questions occasionally. The minute students fail to understand they would wonder in their thoughts.

Make your lecture interactive 

D. Hounsell (1984) described that important aspects of meaningful learning include activity, pre-understanding and importance of context of knowledge. Including activities in lectures can serve many purposes: Activities, which require the application of knowledge, will provide evidence if students have understood and comprehended the lecture.

For example, make them solve a problem which requires application of a formula which you have just taught them.

By varying student activities during a lecture, a teacher can renew attention, generate enthusiasm, and provide opportunities for students to think and obtain some feedback of their under standing.

Make your presentation interesting 

You can generate interest by: - Showing your own interest/commitment to the topic by being expressive.

- Using examples and models apt for the audience and the topic.

- Playing on intellectual curiosity of students through the use of puzzles, problems and questions.

Enthusiasm, friendliness, humour and a conversational style improve expressiveness and excitement among students.

Be responsive to students 

If students are not paying any attention any more, most of them are sleepy or have lost interest, it would be useless to continue delivering lecture. Try different methods of bringing students’ concentration back to the class room — g ive five-minute breaks, change the topic to some light moments or introduce an activity.

Use interactive handouts 

Many students struggle with the triple challenge of listening to a lecture, understanding the content and simultaneously taking notes. Giving handouts may help to overcome this problem.

James Hartley (1994) suggested that interactive handouts are better than other forms for aiding recall and understanding.

Interactive handouts contain skeletal notes and diagrams that students have to complete during the lecture. These can be the PowerPoint slides with space for students to write their notes.

Leave the students with searching question(s) Questions before the lecture helps students to focus on essentials of the lesson. Leaving students with some challenging questions stimulates them to learn more about the topic. Research on pre-questions (advanced organisers) shows that questions help students learn from the texts.

Evaluate your session; be willing to revise At the end of the lecture, ask yourself the following: - Did students ask questions? Were some of these questions probing? - Did I enjoy the session? - Do I have a feeling of fulf ilment? If the answer is yes, then it is likely that you have delivered a great lecture.

The writer is Professor of Paediatrics and curriculum coordinator of the Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Teknologi MARA. Email him at alams222@

Source: The NST Home Learning Curve 2011/09/03 
Tags: education, pedagogy

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